Almost seven minutes into the second quarter of Maryland field hockey’s matchup against No. 3 UConn, coach Missy Meharg summoned Emma DeBerdine from the bench.
DeBerdine had only rested for two minutes, having played the whole game up to that point. But she didn’t miss a beat when called upon, slotting herself in at the left wing and immediately tracking back to help snuff out an onrushing Huskies attack.
And DeBerdine made her presence felt again later in the frame, darting past two Connecticut defenders before feeding defender Riley Donnelly with a perfectly-weighted backhanded pass. Donnelly whisked the ball toward the cage, with midfielder Madison Maguire eventually getting a vital flick to lift the ball past goalkeeper Cheyenne Sprecher.
Maryland leaned on a number of impressive performances Sunday to secure its fourth victory over a top-10 team. But it was the sprightly DeBerdine — hurrying defenders when out of possession while making a series of clever runs to get herself into the shooting circle and cause problems for the Huskies’ backline — who led the way.
“Her energy, her desire, her physiology, her ability to play over sustained minutes,” Meharg said, “Super pleased [with her].”
DeBerdine entered Sunday’s game on the heels of an industrious display last Thursday against No. 5 Northwestern, notching the double-overtime game-winner.
The freshman picked up where she left off and was an immediate spark for a fruitless Maryland attack in the first quarter against UConn, injecting pace into the Terps’ front line.
Within two minutes of the game’s opening back pass, DeBerdine was bearing down on goal, having tipped the ball away from defender Kourtney Kennedy before eluding two more Huskies. While her subsequent effort went wide, it was a warning to UConn’s defense of what was to come.
“She’s just a spark, her pure speed and athleticism is insane,” Donnelly said. “To see that just gives you a little bit of extra energy.”
DeBerdine finished with five shots, her highest game total this season. And while she wasn’t able to find the back of the cage, her increased shot numbers are a positive sign — especially after she failed to record a shot in three of the past four games ahead of Sunday.
“She’s working on her goal-scoring a lot,” Meharg said after the Northwestern match. “She’s getting there.”
On the defensive side of the ball, DeBerdine was exceedingly effective, harassing defenders on the press while also dropping into the backfield when Connecticut kept possession.
“To see her tackling back makes your job a whole lot easier to defend,” Donnelly said, “because the girl on the ball — her eyes are down — it just makes it that much easier to come up with the ball and go forward.”
DeBerdine has recorded four goals and three assists on the year, highlighting her status as a playmaker for the Terps.
And with her blistering pace and willingness to commit on both ends of the pitch, her teammates are taking advantage of her restless playstyle.
“If you have people around you who are all faster than you are, you just try to keep up,” midfielder Linda Cobano said. “It makes the whole team go faster. It definitely helps us.”